Fox continues its guilt-by-association smears on Muslim scholars

Fox News is baselessly smearing numerous participants in a “Capitol Hill Prayer Group” as being “among a 'Who's Who' of controversial figures” with “terror ties.” But many of those listed are outspoken opponents of terrorism and appear to have no ties to terrorists; indeed, at least one has recently appeared as a guest on Fox News.

Fox News attacks prominent Muslim leaders as a "'Who's Who' of controversial figures" “Some Muslims Attending Capitol Hill Prayer Group Have Terror Ties.” A November 10 article reported on a Capitol Hill prayer group, held by the Congressional Muslim Staff Association (CMSA). According to the article, “An Al Qaeda leader, the head of a designated terror organization, and a confessed jihadist-in-training are among a 'Who's Who' of controversial figures who have participated in weekly prayer sessions on Capitol Hill since the 2001 terror attacks, an investigation by reveals.” The article listed nine prominent Muslim leaders as examples of participants that “have terror ties.”'s main source is anti-Muslim Pajamas Media contributor. The article repeatedly quotes Patrick Poole, who is identified as “an anti-terrorism consultant to law enforcement and the U.S. military who has written about CMSA for the conservative blog Pajamas Media.” Poole often writes of alleged “jihadist” threats, and, among other things, has accused the Muslim Student Association of having a “terror problem.”

Doocy: “As you look at some of” the speakers “you realize, hey wait a minute. Didn't anybody do a background check?” On the November 12 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends, co-host Brian Kilmeade called the report “disturbing” and said, of the prayer group, “it's not the meeting that's of concern; I think it's some of the people attending.” Co-host Steve Doocy replied that the group “invited special muslim preachers in...and you look at some of them and you realize, hey wait a minute. Didn't anybody do a background check? Some of these guys have ties to terror.”

Kilmeade calls the meeting a “Who's Who of bad Islamic extremists.” Later on Fox & Friends, Kilmeade introduced the story by saying “I was concerned by this, but not that surprised. It turns out on Capitol Hill, there's a weekly prayer meeting - it's official since 2006, it's like the 'Who's Who' of bad Islamic extremists.” Kilmeade later suggested, as a solution, putting “an F.B.I. agent in there?”

Many of the leaders cited in the article have no apparent terror ties and are outspoken opponents of terrorism

Salam Al-Marayati

Al-Marayati: “Al Qaeda represents the cult of death.” In a May 22 Los Angeles Times article, Marayati said Al Qaeda “represents the cult of death” and noted that “we've made progress in the counter-narrative.” From the Los Angeles Times:

When something like the Times Square incident happens, many people think: Muslims are at it again. How do you alter that reaction?

I think we have gotten through [to most people]. We've made progress in the counter-narrative. Al Qaeda represents the cult of death, that tells [young people] to go die on behalf of leaders who sit in their self-righteous thrones and exploit the grievances of Muslims. The Muslim-American tradition promotes the theology of life, to engage constructively [to] address the grievances.

Some say the condemnation of that cult of death has been a little perfunctory.

I understand that perception. On our website, you'll see all the condemnations. The mosque in America has become an asset to society, to interfaith groups, to law enforcement, in terms of preventing Al Qaeda from having [a] foothold in America. We see the battlefield now on the Internet.

Al-Marayati appeared on Fox News at least twice to discuss Park51. Al-Marayati appeared at least two times in 2010 to discuss the debate surrounding the proposed Islamic community center near ground zero. On a recent episode of Fox News' America's News HQ, Al-Marayati appeared to express support the building of the center, and to express his hope that the conflict over the construction would end. On the August 12 edition of The O'Reilly Factor, Al-Marayati appeared and noted that Imam Rauf has “promoted America as a country that is not at war with Islam, but accepting as Muslims as part of the pluralism” and said “that is what we need in terms of being effective in fighting the war on terrorism, the war against extremists.”

Al-Marayati condemned the Ft. Hood shootings in the Wall Street Journal. Following the Ft. Hood shooting, Al-Marayati wrote an op-ed on December 8, 2009 in the Wall Street Journal in which he condemned the actions of Maj. Nadal Hasan and urged him to “take responsibility for committing two major sins in Islam--the murder of his fellow citizens and the violation of two oaths he took”-- the Hippocratic oath and his oath as a member of the military “to defend our country.” Al-Marayati further wrote:

[B]eing moderate is about upholding religious values while working with other members of society for the greater good. Extremists believe they are compromising their Islamic values when living in the West. This is not true. And Muslim-haters oblige them with the converse, when they argue that the West should not tolerate Muslims. This is not just.

Maj. Hasan's hodgepodge of verses from the Quran and quotes from extremists left out the most important Quranic verse in his section on enjoining peace and forgiveness: “God invites you into the abode of peace” (10:25). Nor did he include the admonition by the Prophet Muhammad never to harm the innocent and never to target noncombatants.

Al-Marayati testified before Congress on the “Prevention of Violent Radicalization and Homegrown Terrorism.” On June 14, 2007, Al-Marayati submitted written testimony before the House Committee on Homeland Security on the subject, “Assessing and Addressing the Threat: Identifying the Role of the National Commission on the Prevention of Violent Radicalization and Homegrown Terrorism.” In his testimony, Al-Marayati said:

On behalf of the Muslim Public Affairs Council (MPAC), I am honored to offer analysis and recommendations that we believe can be helpful and constructive in increasing the understanding and role of the mainstream Muslim American community within the broader strategy of protecting the country. While one of the most underutilized assets, understanding and partnering with the Muslim American community and its legitimate, authentic and credible leadership is the key to countering extremism and radicalization.

Al-Marayati's group founded the National Grassroots Campaign to Fight Terrorism. In his congressional testimony, Al-Marayati further noted:

One major aspect of any effective counterterrorism strategy is community-based policing, similar to neighborhood watch groups that have been effective in dealing with various crimes throughout the United States. To this end, MPAC launched the National Grassroots Campaign to Fight Terrorism in 2004 ( ). This program was based on three critical components: 1) amplifying Islam's message against terrorism; 2) developing partnerships between law enforcement and local Muslim communities; and 3) offering guidelines to Muslim institutions to demonstrate transparency and accountability in the post 9/11 era. This program is based on the Quranic instruction:

"Whosoever killed a human being - unless it be in punishment for murder or for spreading corruption on earth - it shall be as if he had killed all humankind; whereas, if anyone saves a life, it shall be as though he had saved the lives of all humankind." [5:32]

Tariq Ramadan

Ramadan has condemned terrorism as being against the teachings of Islam. In a November 1, 2004, interview with Foreign Policy, Ramadan said, “Terrorism, which kills innocent people, is not Islamically acceptable.” From the interview:

FP: How do you feel when Islam is used to justify terrorism?

TR: Horrified. But responsible. When the Luxor terrorist attack took place [in Egypt] eight years ago, long before 9/11, I wrote a letter from a Swiss Muslim to his fellow citizens saying that this is not acceptable.... We have to condemn this as Muslims and as human beings. And we have to do whatever possible within Islamic communities to spread better understanding about who we are and what we can do to deal with other people. We can have a legitimate resistance to oppression, but the means should be legitimate. Terrorism, which kills innocent people, is not Islamically acceptable. Within Islam there is an accepted diversity -- you can be a literalist, a Sufi mystic, or a reformist, so long as you don't say others are less Muslim than others -- and we must never say that terrorism or violence is part of this accepted diversity.

As the U.K. Independent reported, Ramadan said after the July 7, 2005, London terror attacks, “The authors of such acts are criminals and we cannot accept or listen to their probable justifications in the name of an ideology, a religion or a political cause.”

State Dept. official: “We do not think that either one of them represents a threat to the United States.” In a January 20 State Department briefing noting the decision to overturn the Bush administration's ban on Ramadan and Adam Habib -- a deputy vice chancellor at the University of Johannesburg -- from entering the U.S., assistant secretary Philip Crowley stated, "[W]e do not think that either one of them represents a threat to the United States." Crowley also stated: "[T]he next time Professor Ramadan or Professor Habib applies for a visa, he will not be found inadmissible on the basis of the facts that led to denial when he last applied."

Bush administration cited tenuous ties between Ramadan and a charity later linked to Hamas as a justification for revoking his visa. The New York Times reported on January 20 of Ramadan "[a]t first, the government refused to give its reason [for denying Ramadan's visa]. But eventually it pointed to evidence that from 1998 to 2002 Professor Ramadan had donated about $1,300 to a Swiss-based charity that in turn provided money to Hamas, the militant Palestinian group." The article continued: “But the professor argued that he had believed the charity had no connections to terrorist activities or to Hamas, and said that he had always condemned terrorism.” The Times also noted on July 17, 2009 that "[t]he government cited evidence that from 1998 to 2002, [Ramadan] donated about $1,300 to a Swiss-based charity which the Treasury Department later categorized as a terrorist organization because it provided money to Hamas." The Treasury Department did not designate Association de Secours Palestinien -- which the Times reported was the charity in question -- as a “primary fundraiser” for Hamas until August 22, 2003.

Ramadan publicly criticized U.S. policies during Bush administration. In an October 1, 2006, Washington Post op-ed, Ramadan -- whom the Post reported in December 2004 “is well-regarded in intellectual circles as a scholar who seeks to bridge the Western and Muslim worlds” -- wrote: “I am increasingly convinced that the Bush administration has barred me for a much simpler reason: It doesn't care for my political views. In recent years, I have publicly criticized U.S. policy in the Middle East, the war in Iraq, the use of torture, secret CIA prisons and other government actions that undermine fundamental civil liberties.”

NYT: “Evidence suggests that Mr. Ramadan's strong criticism of United States foreign policy is what really triggered his exclusion.” A September 17, 2009, New York Times editorial argued that the Bush administration “barr[ed] numerous people from entering the country for speaking engagements or conferences to teach at leading universities-all under the flimsily supported guise of fighting terrorism.” Of Ramadan, the Times argued that the “evidence suggests that Mr. Ramadan's strong criticism of United States foreign policy is what really triggered his exclusion.” From the Times:

In 2004, the Bush administration revoked the visa of Tariq Ramadan, a Swiss national and Muslim scholar, who was to become a tenured professor at the University of Notre Dame. It again denied him a visa in 2006. Two months ago, a three-judge panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit in Manhattan unanimously reversed a lower-court ruling allowing the government's move.

The government cited evidence that from 1998 to 2002, Mr. Ramadan contributed about $1,300 to a Swiss-based charity that the Treasury Department later categorized as a terrorist organization. Mr. Ramadan said that he believed the group was involved in humanitarian projects, and that he was not aware of any connections between the charity, the Association de Secours Palestinien, and Hamas or terrorism, which, he said, he condemns. The evidence suggests that Mr. Ramadan's strong criticism of United States foreign policy is what really triggered his exclusion.

Johari Abdul-Malik article claimed Abdul-Malik “made statements in support of convicted and suspected terrorists who attended his mosque.” The article's evidence that Malik had “terror ties” is that he “made statements in support of convicted and suspected terrorists who attended his mosque.” Speaking of the feelings of the members of his community, Malik did, in 2005, say of Ahmed Omar Abu Ali, who was accused of plotting to assassinate President Bush:

“Our whole community is under siege. They don't see this as a case of criminality. They see it as a civil rights case. As a frontal attack on their community...The feeling I get here on a daily basis must be what it was like to be a member of Martin Luther King Jr.'s church following the case of Rosa Parks. People always ask, 'What is the latest from the courthouse?'”

At the time, Abu Ali had just been returned from a Saudi prison, where he was held without charge for 18 months while attending the Islamic University of Medina. He was eventually transferred to U.S. custody, where he was charged with providing material support to al Qaeda. The government's evidence of this was a confession that Abu Ali made during his time in the Saudi prison. According to the Washington Post, Abu Ali's defense “argued that any statements Abu Ali made while in Saudi custody were obtained through torture. Two doctors who examined Abu Ali found evidence that he was tortured in Saudi Arabia, including scars on his back consistent with having been whipped.” The judge sided with the government, who argued that Abu Ali made his confession voluntarily and challenged his allegations of torture. Abu Ali was eventually found guilty and is serving a life sentence in prison.

Abdul-Malik was not associated with Dar al-Hijrah mosque, where two 9/11 hijackers “briefly worshiped” at the time of the 9/11 attacks. As a May 11 Washington Post article pointed out:

Two of the Sept. 11 hijackers briefly worshiped at his mosque, the Dar al-Hijrah Islamic Center, and one of its former imams, Anwar al-Aulaqi, has been linked to accused terrorists and subsequently denounced by the mosque, one of the largest in the United States.

But Abdul-Malik was not affiliated with the mosque in 2001, when the Sept. 11 attacks occurred. In recent years, he has made statements following the arrest of Muslims on terrorism charges, arguing for due process, civil rights and fair sentencing.

“To try to cast me as someone who's a terrorist and closed-minded -- they picked the wrong guy,'' he said.

Abdul-Malik has denounced Al-Awlaki. On his blog, Abdul Malik denounced the anti-American statements of Dar al-Hijrah's former Imam, Anwar Al-Awlaki, saying:

I openly denounce the statement of Mr. Al-Awlaki as posted on his website and those who may follow him. During Mr. Al-Awlaki's employment his public speech was consistent with the values of tolerance and cooperation.

Mr. Al-Awlaki, after his return to Yemen and his imprisonment, now claims that the American Muslims who have condemned the violent acts of Major Hassan have “Committed treason against the Muslm Umaah (community) and have fallen into hypocrisy”. With this reversal Mr Al-Awlaki has clearly set himself apart from the Muslim community in the United States. Al-Awlaki served a brief term of employment at Dar Al-Hijrah from January 2001 until his depart of April 2002.

Abdul Malik has denounced other terrorists. Following the discovery of an alleged plot to bomb the Washington, DC Metro, Abdul Malik told the Washington Post:

“It's a conversation that's definitely going on in the community,” said Imam Johari Abdul-Malik, spokesman for Dar Al-Hijrah mosque in Falls Church. “At the same time, though, if you're dumb enough and sick enough to think you're working for al-Qaeda, then maybe your behind should be put in jail. If what the authorities accuse him of turns out to be true, I have very little sympathy for someone who plans something like that.”

Abdulaziz Othman Altwaijri did not offer any evidence of “terror ties” for Altwaijri. The article did not cite any evidence of Altwaijri's “terror ties,” but rather identified Altwaijri as a “foreign agent.” Altwaijri is Tunisian, and the head of the Islamic Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (ISECO). According to ISECO's charter, their objectives include:

a) To strengthen, promote and consolidate cooperation among the Member States and consolidate it in the fields of education, science, culture and communication, as well as to develop and upgrade these fields, within the framework of the civilizational reference of the Islamic world and in the light of the human Islamic values and ideals.

b) To consolidate understanding among peoples inside and outside the Member States and contribute to the achievement of world peace and security through various means, particularly through education, science, culture and communication.

c) To publicize the correct image of Islam and Islamic culture, promote dialogue among civilizations, cultures and religions, and work towards spreading the values of justice and peace along with the principles of freedom and human rights, in accordance with the Islamic civilizational perspective.

Altwaijri has previously spoken out against terrorism. In a May 24 article for the Global Arab Network, Altwaijri summarized his comments in a 2007 counterterrorism meeting in Tunisia:

Speaking at the opening of the workshop on the UN Global Counterterrorism Strategy Implementation, this morning at ISESCO, Dr Altwaijri underlined, “Terrorism and extremism constitute a serious threat to the peace, security and stability of all countries and peoples. At the international conference which we held in Tunis in November 2007, on ”Terrorism: Dimensions, Threats and Countermeasures", we recognised that terrorism is a criminal act denounced by all religions and which cannot be associated with any particular religion or civilization. We also stressed that terrorism is never justifiable on any grounds."

He added, “In the Tunis Conference, held in cooperation with the United Nations and the government of Tunisia , it was also underlined that terrorism should be understood in its own political, religious, historical, cultural and economic context. Our current workshop will explore other issues of relevance to what has been tackled at the Tunis Conference. Clearly, the promotion of the Global Counterterrorism Strategy in North Africa is part of the implementation of the recommendations of both the Tunis Conference, and several other international and regional conferences aimed at addressing terrorism-related issues.”

He also noted in this regard that fostering global cooperation between governments, regional and international organisations, and local community organs is crucial in the fight against all forms of terrorism.

We at ISESCO, Dr Altwaijri underlined, are dedicated to combating all forms of extremist beliefs, conducts and practices. He added, “To that purpose, we have scheduled under our action plan a number of programmes and activities dealing with the ways to fight extremism, which we believe is the source of terrorism. For terrorists are people holding extremist views on worldly and religious matters.”

He went on to explain that terrorism and extremism can only be effectively combated through promoting education on true values and sound concepts, in addition to increasing understanding of the essential message of all revealed religions: namely, to advocate clemency, love and unselfishness, as well as tolerance, understanding and coexistence.

At the Tunisian conference, Altwaijri called terrorism “a criminal phenomenon.” In the 2007 Tunisian conference (translated from Arabic), Altwaijri called terrorism “a criminal phenomenon that assaults human values and has nothing to do with religion and culture, it is not permissible in any case.” Altwaijri also said "[t]he promotion of a serious and equal dialogue between the different religions and civilizations, for common human values and principles of peace, human rights, tolerance, citizenship, democracy and education to fight terrorism, are the most important priorities in ISESCO."